Daughters of Darkness II: Shina (3/4)

Rowen sat on the sofa, watching his friend fidget. Normally, he’d be the one who’d fidget and annoy, but tonight everything seemed, well, odd. Instead, Sage sat there next to him, blithely running his finger around the edges of his third eye. The sight creeped him out. He hardly tore his eyes away from the spectacle, leaving the television to chatter to an apathetic audience. Even his normally engrossing astrophysics text held less interest than the bizarre show his friend had become. Finally, he could tolerate no more fidgeting. He slammed the book shut as loud as he could, receiving not so much as a half-hearted glance up.

“Sage,” Rowen said. Nothing. “Sage.” Nothing. “Sage!” Sage looked up, slightly startled. “Will you stop that? It’s...weird.”

Sage smiled and shook his head, still stroking his third eye. “I’m just fidgeting. It’s not really that different from you tapping your fingers, shaking your feet, making horse noises...”

“Those are normal fidgets. It’s not playing with a pet eye. Isn’t there some way you can get rid of it?”

“Not yet. There’s a reason I have it.”

Rowen shook his head and tried to return to his text, yet the exhibition his friend had become was too distracting. It may have been quiet, but it was still distracting. “You gonna name it soon?”


“You want suggestions?” Rowen asked, growing a positively Cheshire grin.


“How about Blinky? Winky? L’il Bluesy?”

“Rowen, knock it off. This is serious.”

“A random third eye on your hand is serious?”

“Yeah. Just ask Kento.”

“Oh.” Rowen sighed and let his thoughts drift to his once strong and sturdy friend; now he spent days on end locked in his room and curled in his bed, afraid of another attack. He closed his book and stood up from the sofa. “Maybe I should check on him.”

Sage looked away from his pet eye and gave his friend a dismayed look of protest. “Are you sure it’s safe? He might have another of Shina’s attacks.”


“So if he has another attack, it could kill both of you.” Sage stood up and approached his friend, covering his hand. “It’s safer if I check.” He started down the hall, heading for the last door before the stairs. As he seized the doorknob, he listened. After a long pause, he looked back at Rowen and shook his head.

“What? Is someone in there?”

“Yeah. Cye.” Sage leaned against the wall and slowly crept down to a sitting position; something told him he wouldn’t have long to wait for his exit.

Cye sat on the edge of the bed, staring out the open window at the gently swaying tree branches. He was the last person who could do counseling, especially to such a recalcitrant client as Kento. All his friend ever seemed to do was sleep and, in his rare waking moments, sit silently in bed and try to avoid everyone. Long ago, he realized just how obnoxious this was and that, well, it wasn’t too original an idea; he had subjected his friend to it not so long ago. He turned around and seized the only portion of his friend free from the tangle of blankets, his bare left foot. Kento tossed the blankets off his head and stared wearily at Cye.

“How long have you been there?” Kento moaned, still possessed by sleep.

“Twenty minutes, I guess,” Cye answered. “I got lonely upstairs.”

“Oh. Any word from ‘Yame?” Cye sadly shook his head. “Sorry.”

“It’s not your fault.”

“Yuh-huh. If I didn’t go on that damn date, we’d all be fine.”

Cye gave his friend a sympathetic grin. “Trust me, if Ayame’s family want to get to her, they will, no matter what. It’s nothing you can help.”

::You!:: Cye gasped quietly; Kento winced, another surge of pain racing through his left arm. ::Claiming you will be such a thrill.::

Kento struggled against himself, trying in vain to keep his left hand concealed. “Cye, run!” he strained between his teeth. Cye lept to his feet and tried to help his friend, unsure of what he could do. “Get outta here!”

::What’s wrong, Cye Mouri? Wouldn’t you want to see Ayame again?::

“Don’t listen, just ru--” Kento froze and let out a bloodcurdling scream of pure, unearthly agony. His right hand shot out and seized Cye by the throat in a white-knuckle grip. He stepped from the bed and lifted the struggling figure off of his feet, pinning him against the wall. Cye grabbed at the tight grip on his throat, clawing desperately at the cinch-like hand. A few choked coughs and protests escaped from Cye’s mouth; he stared panicked at his friend, able to feel the left hand pressing heavily against his aching chest. Kento let a few terrified tears cloud his eyes. “Cye, I’m sorry. I can’t help it, I’m sorry.”

{Cye...Don’t be scared.}

The eye blinked, and a set of agonized screams engulfed the room. Cye gasped wildly, each breath dulling the pain. He forced his eyes open, his vision blurred by the lack of oxygen; a numbness swallowed his body, and he had to push himself up from the supine position in which he had landed. Kento was sprawled on the ground nearby, face down and completely still; even after a shake on the shoulder, he failed to respond. His left hand had erupted into a flooding puddle of blood, the third eye gone. “Kento?” Cye called out, his voice scratchy. “Kento?!” Cye struggled to sit up and rolled his limp friend over; he was nearly white, and his eyes were rolled into the back of his head under half-mast eyelids. There was no breathing, no heartbeat....nothing. Cye cradled the cold body in his arms and started to weep. “Oh, no....no....” He managed to jimmy the door open and tried to raise his voice enough to get someone’s attention. “Get in here, please, quickly! Kento’s....Oh, no....”

Sage reached the door first and stared in awe as he saw the sight. He fell to his knees and tried to examine his lifeless friend despite Cye’s grieving. “Cye, can I see him?” he timidly asked. Cye shook his head. “Please, maybe I can help him.”

“He’s gone....she took him...” Cye mumbled between his sobs.

“Let me try something. I might be able to save him from Shina.”

“But he’ll still be dead.” Cye watched in indignation as Sage rested his right hand and its third eye against Kento’s still chest. “What are you doing to him?”

“Even if I can get part of him from Shina, I can save him.” Cye opened his mouth to protest and reached to toss Sage’s hand away; Sage stared into him with a cold ferocity normally reserved for the savagery of battle and spoke between clenched teeth. “CYE, LET ME HELP HIM.” Cye gave him a suspicious look before lowering Kento to the floor and resigning his care to Sage. Sage rested his hand against the center of the still chest and held out his left to Cye. “Can I have your hand?”


{Cye, give him your hand.}

“Ayame?” Cye whispered. He reluctantly took Sage’s hand and closed his eyes. \Ayame, where are you?/

{I’m where you are.}

\Why are you making me do this? Kento’s gone./

{No, he’s not. I’m trying to help him. Just trust me.} A surge of odd, numbing warmth ran through Cye’s body; his eyes shot open in time to witness Kento’s sudden gasp of breath and stunned stare at the ceiling. {He’ll be fine now. Don’t worry.}

“Kento?” Sage asked as he retrieved his hands. “Can you hear me?”

“Kento?” Cye eagerly asked, giving his confused friend an elated smile.

“Cye, what happened?” Kento moaned. He picked up his left hand and stared at the healing blister that had replaced the eye. “What happened to my hand?”

“You’re okay now,” Sage said, helping him sit up. “You don’t have to worry anymore.” Sage stood up and left the room without a word, protecting his hand.

Cye watched his hasty exit, then turned his attention to Kento. “Kento?”

Kento looked at him, his gaze focused on the red marks along Cye’s throat. “Geez, man, I’m sorry. Are you okay?”

“I’m fine. Are you okay? You weren’t breathing.”

“I’m okay now.” He stared down at his recovering hand and sighed. A wave of relief bathed him; he was free now.

Sage sat on the hardwood floor of his bedroom, his legs crossed. The third eye remained open and stared up at him. He heaved a massive sigh and waited.

^Ayame? Are you there?^

{Sage. How do you feel?}

^Awful. Is it always this bad?^

{It’ll only get worse. You have to handle it.}

^I know. I just wish I knew why I was chosen for this.^

{I don’t know, either. I hate to do this to you, but there isn’t much choice.}

^Why? Can’t some other victim do this, too?^

{No. I’ve always heard that there was some one, singular person out there who could counteract Shina’s touch. I guess you’re it. You have no choice but to face her alone.}

^I know that!^

{Sorry. I just wanna protect you and Cye and everyone as much as I can like this.}

^What do you mean, ‘like this’?^

{Shina has my body. She has my memory. She knows you’re all here. If I were you, I’d leave.}

“So we’re just supposed to up and leave?” Mia argued, glaring angrily at Sage as the meeting in the living room progressed.

“I’m sorry, but it’s the best option to keep us all safe,” Sage calmly argued. “I don’t like it, either, but we have no other choice.”

“Where are we supposed to go?” Kento asked, still shaken from the past assault. “Are we supposed to just go home and wait it out?”

“Basically. I’m sorry, but it’s either stay here and fend off two demons or go home and hope they give up.”

“Can I stay here?” Cye asked. “I just want to wait for Ayame.”

Sage let his stern exterior melt into a look of total, sincere pity. “Cye, Ayame may never really be back. You’d really be better off somewhere else.” Cye resigned his argument with a sad sigh. “I’m sorry.”

“Where am I supposed to go? You’re EVICTING me,” Mia continued to argue.

“You can always stay at my grandmother’s,” Ryo offered. “If you don’t mind ten p.m. curfews.”

“I guess...if we have no other choice.” Mia tempered her anger long enough to give Sage a look of concern. “Please be careful.”

“Uhh...Sage? Can I talk to you later?” Rowen asked.

“Sure. So do you know where you’re all going?”

“Yeah, we’ll be okay,” Kento assured. “You going home, too?”

“I have to stay here. It’s the only way I can stop Shina.” Sage lowered himself into the loveseat with an anxious sigh and watched as the others departed.

“Oh. Sorry, man.” Kento gave Sage a sympathetic grin as he stood up to leave, followed by a very silent Cye.

“Are you sure your mother won’t mind?” Cye asked Kento as they left.

“Oh, yeah. We’ll just evict one of my sibs,” Kento returned. “That’s why there’s dumpsters.”

Sage noticed Rowen staring quietly at his hands. “You know, my parents won’t mind if you stay there for a while...”

“Nah. If you’re staying, I’m staying,” Rowen returned with a vague grin.

“You really can’t. It’s too much of a risk.”

“Sage, I really have nowhere else to go. You know that.” Sage closed his eyes, acknowledging the truth in that statement. “Even if it’s a risk, I’d rather stay here. Besides, you think you can fend her off alone?”

“I have to. If you’re afraid to go home, I have money. You can stay at a hotel--”

“I’m staying.” Rowen stared sternly into his friend’s eyes. The conviction was too intense to deny; there was no way Sage would change his mind.

“Fine. Just please, take care of yourself.”

Rowen stood up and headed down the hall, smiling a bit more than before. “Don’t worry, I’ll be fine.”

Rowen watched from the safety of his bedroom as Mia’s jeep peeled out of the garage; even the squealing of the wheels seemed angry. He couldn’t really blame her. If a guest was evicting him from his home, he’d be mad, too. Sage had gone to the end of the long driveway to see everyone off, and his diminutive silhouette could be seen at the very edge. He turned from his window and started to toss the assemblage of dirty clothes from his hidden bed to the already concealed floor. A nap would do wonders for him now. He was tired of listening to the pacing from Cye’s room through the thin ceiling every night, usually followed by some sort of vocal grieving; the whole situation was getting out of hand, and he was just pretty damn sick of it. It was bad enough watching Sage with that pet eye of his; now he was bossing everyone around and basically acting weird. Then the incident in Kento’s room........... There’s no way Sage should have to face this alone. He stretched out on his bed and tucked his arms under his head, staring at the ceiling. It was going to be a long night.

“Cye....?” a feeble, frightened female voice asked from the hallway. Rowen sat up and approached the doorway. “I-Is anyone here...?”

“ ‘Yame?” Rowen asked, jumping off the bed. He tiptoed towards the doorway. “You okay?”

A hand seized the front of his shirt and pitched him back into the room. His head bounced against the chair at his desk, sending a swirl of the colors of his room into a tempest that increasingly dulled into grays and blacks. Another, more concentrated blow struck him, and he could hardly feel or see anything. The numbness swallowed him just as he heard the faint tearing of fabric and felt dull pressure against him.

Sage entered the house, dusting the thin coat of driveway dirt off of himself. He sighed in vague relief; Mia had missed hitting him by mere inches as she pulled out, and he could only be happy she was a lousy aim. He closed the door and waited. Any moment now, Shina would return, and he would begin his struggle. A nagging question ate away at him: What were the real stakes of this? He could handle it if only his soul was endangered by failure; after the incident in Kento’s room, that seemed the highest of all stakes. He took a deep breath and exited to the balcony, waiting.

{Sage......you better go into Rowen’s.}

^Ayame?^ A gnawing fear grew in his stomach. ^What?^

Sage sprinted into the house and ran down the halls. Rowen’s door was slightly ajar, offering only the slightest glimpse of the scene within. He carefully stepped in and promptly felt his entire self chill to the core. Rowen was pure white except for his cerulean hair and the copious blood that stained his bare flesh. Nary a shred of fabric covered him, exposing every newly formed bruise; his limbs rested at unnatural angles, and a thin streak of blood trickled slowly down his face. Sage fell to his knees and picked up his stiff form, letting his head rest against him at a loose angle. The tears started to rush down his face as he listened to Rowen’s still chest.

“Rowen...” Sage wept as he came to feel the break in his friend’s neck. “Why....?” He peered up and saw the culprit admiring her handiwork. “Shina!” he hissed, lowering Rowen to the carpet as he slowly rose to his feet.

“Not quite... Shouldn’t you call this one Ayame?” the succubus responded, Shina’s shrill voice in Ayame’s body. “You were wondering what’s at stake, Sage? How about him?” She stepped up uncomfortable close to him and stared coldly into him; the overwhelming stench of decay hit him with every chill breath she had the nerve to exhale against him.

{Don’t let anything she says faze you.}

“I’ll see you later tonight, darling.” The succubus started to trace the paths of his tears, then abruptly slapped him. “He won’t be the only one to suffer if you fail.” She crashed past him, leaving only the echoing shatter of the glass window.

^AYAME! What did you do to him?^

{I......I have to go.}

Sage let the gnaw of grief and anger eat away at him. The thought of Rowen’s suffering in pain and terror as that whore attacked him.....He would make every guilty party pay for this as best he could.

{Cye? Cye, are you there?}

\Ayame, what’s wrong?/

{I don’t know.......Shina and I did something, and I don’t understand what..... Cye, I might not see you again.}

\Ayame, what are you saying?/

{Goodbye.....I love you.}

\Ayame? AYAME?/

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